30 January 2010

The Sorrows of Young Buck

A young buck nearly scared the bejeebers out of me on my way home today.  I flipped on my turn signal, checked behind me, switched into the right turn lane, slowed down, slowed down more . . .

And that is a young male deer standing RIGHT on the side of the road so close I could roll down my window and pet him, and he is chewing something desultorily and watching traffic, like any bored jaywalker, and I am terrified that he's just going to start crossing the street and no one will see him because there are never deer HERE, and it's so dark, and even though it's not really safe at all, I am looking in my rear view mirror and sending telepathic messages to the deer to turn back and go home . . .

Good thing his telepathic receiver was on because he turned around and shuffled away.  I spent the rest of my drive watching out for him on the side of the road because I was afraid he would jump out from there to punish me for ruining his fun, but that didn't happen.  Phew.

Also, the moon tonight was impossibly big and beautiful.  Yesterday was supposed to be the day, but full+1 today was just gorgeous and brilliant, big, wide, and parchment-colored.  I would have looked at it more, but I was  watching out for that deer.

29 January 2010

A perfect quote about the moon

The moon illusion

Finally, be sure to get out and see the full moon as it rises, right around sunset. Along the horizon, the moon tends to seem even bigger. This is just an illusion.

You can prove to yourself that this is an illusion. Taking a small object such as a pencil eraser, hold it at arm's length, and compare its size to that of the moon just as it rises. Then repeat the experiment later in the night and you'll see that the moon compares the same in both cases. Alternately, snap two photos of the moon, with a digital camera or your cell phone, when the moon is near the horizon and later when it's higher in the sky. Pull both photos up on your computer screen and make a side-by-side comparison.

Astronomers and psychologists agree the moon illusion is just that, but they don't agree on how to explain it.

28 January 2010

Squares of sunlight

When I was flying away from my home to visit my parents, I was impressed by how cool all the snow looked from above. Then I neared other parts of the Midwest, and it was all sullen, boring brown from the air (where I could see through the clouds). From the ground, it wasn't much better.

Where I grew up, it's table-top flat, and the lack of any colors other than browns and grays--combined with temps hovering around freezing and a heavy cloud-cover--made looking outside a depressing endeavor. Good thing we had all the blinds drawn against the cold.

I had been looking forward to covering myself with a blanket and lying on the carpet in squares of sunlight all over my parents' house, which has more than one window (!). I actually found myself longing for the high, bright, pointless sunshine of my new home area further north.

When I came back home, I got my wish. It was sunny (above the clouds)! Then I landed, and it was, according to one temperature readout, + 0, and I wondered again if all the sunlight was worth it.

Today, when I finally found a place in my apartment (third floor game room) where--for a couple of hours on a totally clear day--there are squares of sunlight on the carpeted floor, I decided that I can handle adding another layer to walk outside if I can bask like that in January.

If you had to choose, would you want the sun and perma-snow and ridiculous cold and windows, or would you want the additional warmth and a perpetually overcast sky?

Return of the Sloth

I've been away for a bit of a vacation at my parents' house in another midwestern state where I did my best impression of a sloth for five days. I left the house twice (and saw a deer one of those times) and interacted with exactly one non-family member (okay, three if you include two phone calls about a group I organize). It was lovely. So lovely. Kind of. Well, that aspect of it was lovely. And it was desperately (Do I mean definitely?) inspirational for numerous reasons, both positive and negative, that I may surely explicate in the future when my inner sloth starts moving again. Any time now . . .

22 January 2010

Ear-ache buddies, birthdays, family

I'm visiting my parents this week. It's warmer here and less snowy. Tonight, I am promised an ice storm. I hope it's delivered because I love the sound of ice raining down and coating everything, and I love the way everything is transformed into glazed jewelry by a really good ice storm.

My older sister, brother-in-law, and newly minted two-year-old nephew are coming tomorrow, though, so for their sakes I hope things aren't bad. The nephew is very mobile now, like a tiny, short-haired explosion. His recently acquired knowledge of how to smile for cameras (and his huge head and lack of hair) makes him strongly resemble Julius the Monkey, but I am not supposed to tell his parents that.

We're ear-ache buddies. I might have an ear infection right now, but I think he's currently free of that affliction for once. His ear tubes are doing their jobs, so he can hear now and is a hilarious chatterbox. I'm sure someone will bring up the biting incident from his preschool, so I can hear him mispronounce "bit" as "bitch." Adults are so easily entertained.

I'm seriously considering my own doctor's advice to get tubes put in my ears again before my next airplane ride. I'm a thirty-year-old woman, but I guess you never really outgrow a head that's too small. Alas. If you could somehow average my nephew's head and mine, we would both be normal-sized, and our ears would be better for it.

How's your January going so far?

17 January 2010

Government email is spam

If you ever send the U.S. federal government an email, be sure to check your spam folder regularly for the reply.  Yahoo assumes your email from the federal government is spam.  I guess that's not the government's fault, but sheesh.

Why is the government so behind the times when it comes to email?  So much time is wasted sending documents and requests back and forth through the mail (and having them always mysteriously disappear if they're not sent in a traceable format), and it's nearly impossible to access information you need in anything approaching a timely fashion. 

In my more cynical moments, I think the government thrives on this inefficiency and even uses it to its advantage.  It's quite easy for all the delays to hurt citizens while the government crunches on, rolling over us without a care in the world.  It certainly has for my little ongoing OWCP drama . . .

Sometimes I wonder how much more efficient our government would be if it joined this new-fangled internet revolution.  I've even imagined what would happen if Google took over communication duties for the government.  What a silly dreamer, I am, imagining a world where I could immediately access my SF-50 and enter three simple pieces of information into my application for another government job.

Of course, I'm ignoring the whole national security issue, here.  I guess I just don't think any bad people care about my pay band from my '02-'03 job.  I figure Google should be able to do at least as well as my banks, which seem to be keeping more important information private, but I'm really ignorant about security issues. 

Sigh.  Dream wildly on, self, about efficiency.  It's never gotten along very well with bureaucracy.  :)

15 January 2010

second-hand sunlight

Is there any value in second-hand sunlight?  All sorts of research indicates that people in the cold northlands get depressed in the winter because they don't get enough sunlight, which helps the body produce some vitamin or chemical that can cause depression in its absence. 

I'm deficient in that particular vitamin.  Since my body and immune system are a tad screwed up due to years without proper sleep, I figure every moment in the sun could help.  It is pretty darned cold outside, so I thought I'd find somewhere to bask in the sun in the name of health.  My apartment's south-facing window is useless due to the south extension of the apartment building that blocks off the sun most of the time. 

I've taken to trying to sit for a while in the sun that comes through the windows in the pool room.  I felt very proud of my healthiness for a while.  Now I've been wondering if sun filtered through windows will make your body do its magic or if only direct sunlight will do.

Do you know if there's any physical benefit to second-hand sunlight?

13 January 2010

Birthdays, owls, kestrels

A friend recently had his 60th birthday at a nature center, which was a great idea because it gave the kids things to do and places to run around even in January.  Through sliding glass doors, I watched chipmunks and squirrels and hyperactive birds feed at the come hither station (complete with heated water hole that never freezes, even when it's 19 below). 

There were three live birds on display.  One was the most sullen, antisocial owl I had ever seen, a wad of irked fluff standing as far from the window as was possible with the tether.  Owl eyes are incredibly creepy, especially when they're radiating unfriendly vibes.  I found this amusing: reason the owl was on display: because it was unable to survive in the wild since it had been raised by humans, preferably really antisocial humans instead of abusive humans.  Maybe it was just in a bad mood.

My favorite was the red kestrel.

American kestrels are
beautiful more beautiful
when not gnawing on
recently living things
but still beautiful
even when they will
never fly (improperly
healed right wing
fracture) still
beautiful beak bloody

11 January 2010

Chemicals your parents won't mind you enjoying

I recently talked to my parents about a job application after exercising, and I think it's the first time that's happened. (The talking after exercising, not the talking or the job application or the exercising. Glad I could clear that up.)

They thought I'd had coffee, which struck me as funny. I can't drink coffee because
  • caffeine has the opposite medicinal effect on me (it makes me tired, gives me headaches, and makes my jaw lock up a bit).
  • it tastes of motor oil (so there's no way I'd drink decaf).

Good old endorphins are wonderful. They make you feel chipper and cheerful and tired and pleased.

Exercise: the wonder drug that's strong enough to make your 18th hour working on a government job application tolerable.

Do you have any endorphin-induced funny stories? Or stories about conversations with your parents that were unintentionally funny?

10 January 2010

Peanuts and fortune cookies: two quotes to brighten your day

"If you pay in peanuts, you'll get monkeys." - anonymous

"The man who does more than he is paid for will soon be paid for more than he does." - a fortune cookie fortune

Dear Fortune Cookie Wisdom Dispenser,

Please define "soon."  Also, is it because I am not a man that this does not apply?  I would like for there to be a reason. Ook, ook.

Thank you for your time.

a retail employee

09 January 2010

Things not to say to retail employees during the holidays, part 2

Please do not cheerfully call a retail establishment to ask, since you've heard it's going out of business, if there are any final sales.  And if you are a rude enough vulture as to do so, please do not accuse the employee of lying when she tells you that she hasn't been told anything about going out of business and that there are thus no going-out-of-business sales.

Again, I know that if you are reading this blog, you would never do this, but someone did, and it made me sad.  If you know this person or others of her ilk, shun them, please. 


06 January 2010

Humorous hats of winter

Trucks are manly vehicles, right?  Tough and strong, etc., etc.  Real men park their trucks outside in the winter.  This means that when a particular kind of snow falls and is followed by a thaw and a hard freeze, the manly trucks end up wearing comical snow hats as they muscle past me on the highway.  I like this.

Other fun things that end up wearing hats:
  • picnic tables
  • trash cans
  • vans
  • light poles

What are your favorite things that wear hats in winter?

Household pests

My household pests have been annoying me lately.  Maybe it's because I keep my apartment cold, but they just don't flee in terror the way I think they should.  There's no running and hiding from the thunderous sound of my huge footsteps, no terrified flight as my shadow looms over them.  They just sort of sit there and stare with what I imagine are vacant little buggy expressions, saying, "Durrrrrrr," in their little buggy language. 

Are they too cold to fire on all cylinders?  Would it kill them to ACT scared and give me a little gratification by scurrying away so I don't have to look at them and try to actively avoid stepping on them because they aren't running away like good, sane little bugs ought to do?

Maybe they know I'm highly unlikely to kill them.  Maybe they're lounging around like street punks, confident and brazen, insulting me and my weakness against things with too many legs that stain the carpet when I kill them. 

I hate it when the carpet gets nasty because then I have to keep track of what spots are off-limits, and when you only have 385 square feet (- all the bookshelves, cabinetry, love seat, tables, etc.) to sit on, this can become annoying quickly.  So I let them run rampant, and they act as if they own the place.  Sheesh.

Any suggestions?

04 January 2010

Things not to say to retail employees during the holidays

"It's a shame your store is closing.  It's been all over the news."
Someone said this to me while we were woefully understaffed and had a line that was unconscionably long.  She smiled like a predator, and I did not throw anything at her or burst into tears.

I did not say, "We are aware that we will be the last to know.  This is why we are searching for other jobs.  This is why our turnover rate is ruinous.  This is why we are stressed (one of the reasons anyway), why our smiles are so tight and fake-looking, and we don't need any maliciously cheerful reminders that our jobs hang by a slowly fraying thread, you big jerk of a harassing bully.  Happy holidays, ma'am."

This is a public service message just in case you are tempted to say anything that assinine this coming year if the economy is still unwell.  But I know that no one who reads this blog would ever be that rude.  :)  Thank you for that.

If you've ever worked sales or retail, what ridiculous things have you had to put up with customers saying (and/or what's the best line you never said)?

01 January 2010

2010 Day One: a list of beautiful things so far

  • an ambush of sparrows from the Firecracker Tree
  • the Poetry Garden full of trees dripping dramatic red berries
  • the moon hard and blue and far away one day past full -9 F
  • Relient K's MMHMM
What's on your list?